The Cross of Christ

Notes of an Address at Leeds, 1937, on Romans 6:6; 1 Corinthians 1:23-24; 2:4-8; Galatians 2:19-20; 6:14-15

The last scripture, read by the previous speaker, alluded to the Apostle Paul, his doctrine and his manner of life. I am glad that my theme fits in exactly with those two things. I have read four passages, and in those from Romans and Corinthians we get summarized something of the Apostle’s doctrine concerning the Cross of Christ. In Galatians we discover the working out of the doctrine, the way it affected his manner of life.

We may discriminate thus:—the first and second scriptures are doctrinal and dogmatic. They state certain things that have been divinely accomplished in the Cross of Christ. The third and fourth from Galatians are experimental and practical. You will notice that in these Galatian passages the Apostle drops from the plural into the singular and uses the little pronoun “I” a number of times; that is because he is not expounding Christian doctrine, but is showing us something of Christian experience as wrought out in himself. In this way he lets us into the secret of the marvellous manner of life that characterized him.

But what characterized him as a pattern saint is also to characterize us. The Cross of Christ is as central and as valid for us as for him. If we speak of it for a few minutes tonight we must do so with the shadow of it lying upon our spirits. Its deep significance must come closely home to us all—especially the speaker. We must learn its lesson; it is one that we have never done with while down here.

The Cross was death; but it was a death of utter repudiation, a death of degradation and shame. I think I am right in saying that it was a way of executing the death sentence introduced by the haughty Romans. They had an iron empire beside which even the British Empire is a fragile affair, and for centuries their empire existed. As you know, unspeakable cruelties were perpetrated, and when they defeated and captured poor barbarians they nailed them up in contempt, just as a farmer might nail vermin to his barn door.

This was the contemptuous treatment meted out by the Romans to their enemies; they would not give them a decent execution under the axe—that was reserved for the condemned Roman—they nailed them with supreme cruelty to a cross of wood. Now that was the death which the Lord of glory died—a death of repudiation, degradation, condemnation.

Many things might be said as to Romans 6:6, but I am going to concentrate on one. We have the dogmatic assertion that in the Cross of our Saviour our old man was crucified with Him. God did it. God says it. We know it, because God has said it.

Now what is the significance of “our old man”? Our “old man” is all that we were in character, as children of Adam, personified. It is no unusual thing for us to personify a certain character. Visualizing a man of that character, we can see more clearly what the character is.

Now scientific experiments seem to show us increasingly that there are many hidden features and potentialities in any given species, whether of animals or plants. No one specimen exhibits all the features of the species. That is equally true with men. No one man expresses all that is in man. Today we have the Adamic race, having run perhaps through two hundred generations, and numbering roundly two thousand million; so we begin to see working out in humanity all the features that were in Adam, when as a fallen man he became the progenitor of the human race.

As I went down to the city on the first day here, I saw facing me a poster on which were the words in very large type, “Aren’t men beasts!” (I might say, in passing, that the bill-poster, perhaps by a happy accident, had put close to it another poster, also in large type, reading, “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost,” and this was most appropriate). Now this remark had not got a note of interrogation following it, as though we were invited to express our opinion on the point. It had a note of exclamation. It was a bold assertion; and we have to admit, too sadly true.

All I have to say is: if you really could produce a man who should embody in himself every evil thing that ever has been displayed in the Adamic race, you would have indeed a beast—a terrible monster. There would be no peace or safety until he was condemned and executed. Well, thanks be to God, that is exactly what has been done. God has put the sentence of death on our old man—on all that we were as children of Adam. The marvellous thing is that this sentence should have been made effective in the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ. He came down into death that He might take up the judgment that belongs to a man of that character, and in His Cross our old man has been crucified. That is a dogma which, when it gets into our hearts, will profoundly affect our lives.

Now in Corinthians you again have the Cross of Christ. Paul evangelized these very learned folk, who had an outward culture covering much inward corruption. He tells how he determined amongst them to know nothing save Christ crucified. Now Christ crucified is the power of God and the wisdom of God, and we see in this passage that though foolishness to men, it simply proves the foolishness of men. It is the princes of this world who stand judged in the light of the Cross, for none of them knew the Divine wisdom; had they known it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

With all their earthly wisdom they crucified the Lord of glory. They put His title in three languages over His head: in Latin, the language of the military and governmental princes; in Greek, the language of the intellectual princes, and in Hebrew, the language of the religious princes. All were united, Jew and Gentile. Why did they crucify the Lord of glory? Because they did not know Him. Well, if their wisdom did not enable them to recognize their Creator when they saw Him, it stands condemned.

Isaiah, in his day, said, “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib, but Israel doth not know.” That word might now be said with far greater emphasis. Jesus the Son of God was amongst them. Did they know Him? They did not. They had not the sense of an ass!

The Lord of creation stooped in grace amongst us, and His crucifixion put the sentence of condemnation upon the world and its princes. The issue is clear cut. They crucified Him of course, but as God and the holy angels saw it, they crucified themselves.

There is a story told of one of the newly rich, really a very ignorant man, who went into an Art Gallery containing celebrated pictures of great value. He turned to an attendant saying, “Are these your noted pictures? I don’t think much of them.” The man replied, “Sir, the worth of our pictures is amply assured: they are not on their trial. It is the visitors who are on their trial.” By his remark condemning the pictures, the man was really condemning himself. He only displayed his own foolishness and ignorance. The princes of this world condemned themselves in this fashion.

So the wisdom of the world stands condemned. This is dogmatically stated here; but now we must come to the application, for that is what we want to reach. The truth must affect us in an experimental and practical fashion, and if it does, the effect will be that we shall live unto God. The whole current and direction of our lives will be changed. There will be a new object before us. Galatians shows us this.

In our unconverted days self was at the very centre of our thinking; it was the dirty little puddle into which all our trickling streams emptied themselves. Now the stream of our life is no longer to run into the mud-pool of self; it is to flow into the glorious ocean—Christ Himself. God is to be the Object of life to the Christian; even as Paul said, “I am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.”

“I” occurs no less than seven times in verses 19 and 20, and some of you may feel a little difficulty about them. There is I myself, the living entity, the individual person; but then I may sometimes identify myself in thought with what I am as a new creation in Christ Jesus, and sometimes with what I am as a child of Adam.

With this before us, let us read verse 20 again:—I—as a child of Adam—am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I—the individual person—live; yet not I—as a child of Adam—but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I—the individual person—now live in the flesh, I—the new creation man—live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I was identified with Him in His death, and captivated by His mighty love, I accept as regards myself, as regards the flesh and its motions, the crucifixion that took place with Christ my Lord. Crucifixion brought home inwardly, privately, to the individual conscience and heart, so that Christ may now come out in the life: this is what accounted for the manner of life that characterized the Apostle Paul.

You probably know the old illustration about a man conscripted to serve in Napoleon’s army, but being a married man, an unmarried friend took his place. After some time the substitute died in battle, and a further conscription taking place, the original man was again called up. When he did not put in an appearance he was challenged, but he stated what had happened and said that he had died in the person of his substitute.

But there was a sequel to this which you may not have heard. The matter was referred to Napoleon, who decided in his favour, saying his legal position was unassailable, but that he could not have it both ways. He could not claim to be legally dead in the person of his substitute, and yet go on living as before. He decreed that he must change his name. Both he and his family had henceforth to live in the name of the man who died for him. That illustrates my point, but with us it has to go much deeper than a mere change of name. There has to be a change of life—“Christ liveth in me!” The One who died—the One in whom crucifixion was an actuality—that One is now going to live in those for whom He died.

All life must have an object, and we have an adequate Object for the new life into which we are introduced in the One who loved us and gave Himself for us. For ever our eyes will be centred on Him. Today we live by the faith of the Son of God. Presently we shall live by the sight of Him.

How amazing this is! Jesus the Son of God loved me, and gave Himself for me. The Lord of glory on the one hand, and then poor little me on the other—not merely little, but degraded, dirty, unlovely. Paul had to endorse the description of the Cretians as always liars, evil wild beasts, lazy gluttons; but then he went on to say to Titus that we ourselves were hateful and hating one another. It is as easy as anything to hate somebody else, as seeing their bad points, but we have to face the fact that we are hateful ourselves. Have you ever sat down and said, “I am a hateful person.” If you have not said it, it is time you did so. Yet the Son of God looked down upon hateful me and He loved me. This is a fact that moves the heart! About the most astounding thing I know is that He loved me when there was nothing in me to love, and He gave Himself for me. What a melting fact is this! How gladly then do I say, “Lord Jesus, let Thy Cross lie upon that which I am, that there may be something of Thy life manifested in me.”

Now as I close, one word about the world, its wisdom comes to nothing, as Corinthians tells us. The world itself comes to nothing. John tells us that—“The world passeth away, and the lust thereof.” The Apostle Paul in our passage, again speaks personally and experimentally saying, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He gloried in that sentence of repudiation, shame and death. That Cross stood between Paul and the world, for not only was the world crucified unto him but he to the world.

I wonder which of those two things is the more difficult for us to take in. Has the world died a shameful death of repudiation in our eyes? Has the death of Christ torn the gaudy mask from the face of the world? She is not a lovely damsel: she is a wrinkled old hag. Have we seen its true character as tested by the presence of the Lord of glory?

But then, the world says, “I don’t want you. You are crucified in my eyes.” Now it is a very humiliating thing thus to be crucified to the world. Paul found it so; the sentence of the Cross was upon him; and yet he said, God forbid that I should glory in anything else but this.

May God help us to look at things in this light, and may the Cross of Christ stand between us and the world. May we glory in the Cross, even as Paul did. How much did the Cross cost our Saviour? What did it mean to Him?

Many centuries ago the custom crept in of wearing or carrying crucifixes, which, it was thought, would remind people of the Cross of Christ. Very soon the reality was lost. The symbol killed the reality it was supposed to keep alive. What we want is that the Cross, in its real significance may really lie engraven upon the fleshy tables of our hearts.

F.B.Hole

Extracted from “The Epistle of Christ”